Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why I Wrote My PitchWars Novel

It's all over.

I've submitted my PitchWars entry and now I can do nothing but wait for the agent round to determine my fate.


In the meantime, I've decided to participate in this little game everyone else is playing and tell you all about why I wrote my PitchWars novel.

Back in 2012, I got the idea to tell fairy tales from the villains' perspective, but not in a way that I had seen before. I'd seen retellings in which the villain tells the story, remaining truly evil, losing in the end, making for a very dark and sinister story. I'd seen versions of the story in which the villain just narrates the hero's story, again losing at the end, remaining evil throughout and just really giving us an outsider's opinion on the whole thing.

I didn't want to do that.

I wanted to know why these people (women, usually) would do something so terrible. What makes a woman want to kill her stepdaughter? What makes a woman want to abuse, neglect, and treat her stepdaughter as a slave? What makes a woman curse a young girl into eternal sleep?

Yes. I know. We had the old answers: jealousy, grief, vengeance.

But those answers are so overly simplistic and just... evil. 

And a villain is a hero in his own eyes, right? I mean, every "evil" character thinks what they're doing is right, or they're justified in doing the wrong thing. I wanted to find those justifications.

The benefits of telling the stories this way ended up being plentiful. First, these became adult stories. The mistreated princesses in our favorite fairy tales are young, lending themselves to YA or even MG retellings. But the villains are adults, with an adult voice and adult perspective and adult problems (a fifteen-year-old princess isn't likely to know the pain of losing a child or a marriage falling apart).

Second, these stories remained inherently feminine. The villains are so often women; stepmothers, usually. These are women fighting against other women, without it devolving into petty soap operas.

Third, I had to dig deep. For a woman to be willing to kill (or try to kill) a young girl? There has to be a good reason, there has to be more to the story than you ever knew or expected. These women are fighting for more than just their own pride, and I love that I get to make such complex motivations come to life.

And so, SANDS OF IMMORTALITY was born (well... first was a Snow White story, and then Sleeping Beauty, and then that Sleeping Beauty story took on a life of its own and became SANDS OF IMMORTALITY).

During the process of querying my first novel, the Snow White retelling, I had an agent tell me he loved the book. Just... could I rewrite it to be less feminine and more like Game of Thrones, please?

I will not. I will not remove the femininity from my story. I will not make my story into one full of gory violence and graphic sex. (Martin is incredibly talented, and there is a place for that kind of fantasy, and I love it, but it is not my story to tell and I won't force myself to tell it.) 

That's why I keep writing these stories. That's why I wrote this one the way I did. Because these stories have another side to them; a side that's more mature, more complex, and more interesting than we ever imagined, and it's time these women had a chance to shine in their own right, for better or worse.

12 comments:

  1. I LOVE your premise. And you're right. We have a Game of Thrones. We need your stories told your way. I would love to read this and get into the mind of your protagonist.

    Good luck in the agent round!

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  2. Oooooh, so curious to hear more about your story! Definitely a compelling hook! Good luck!

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  3. YAY! for you taking a stand. This is YOUR story - and I can't wait to read it. I love getting inside the mind of the antagonist for the very reason you stated: In their mind, they are the hero. Nothing is ever simply black and white.

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  4. Right on! We already have Game of Thrones. We don't need another one. Good luck!

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  5. So happy to see another retelling. Yours sounds fabulous. Good luck!

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  6. I love love love this concept. And kudos to you for sticking to your guns and telling your story the way your characters demand! Good luck to you in Pitch Wars. :)

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  7. Great story idea! I'm cheering for you in the agent round, Gina!!

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  8. I can't wait to read this. We had a situation, many years ago, where people I had thought of as good people did something I found unforgivable. And one day, it hit me... They thought they had done the right thing. They thought they were the heroes. It didn't make me understand why they did what they did, but it allowed me to give them some grace.

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  9. Bring on the fairy tale retellings/reimaginings. I want to read this so bad! Good luck! I'll be cheering for you!

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  10. This. Is. AWESOME. First of all, that you wanted to get to the root of these one-dimensional women because, hey, women are complex! And so are their emotions! But especially that you weren't willing to compromise on the femininity. Best of luck to you with the book! I hope to see it on the shelves someday!!

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